Celebrity chefs Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert promulgated their culinary wisdom upon the Hoosier state last Thursday, stopping at Indiana University’s Bloomington campus on their “Good vs. Evil” tour.
The show began as Bourdain paced the stage, questioning Ripert on everything from his immigration status to his television appearances. “How many times have you been on Martha Stewart?” Bourdain asked Ripert.
“I’ve done Martha 20 times,” Ripert replied as a matter of fact.
“And she was pleased with the experience each time?” Bourdain countered with a wry smile, the sold-out IU auditorium roared with laughter.
Of course, there was celebrity-chef bashing. Bourdain questioned Ripert about an encounter with Guy Fieri. Although Ripert admitted to being entertained by Fieri, he didn’t give the Food Network personality a ringing endorsement. “Did I learn something about cooking, not,” he admitted in his thick French accent.
Bourdain teased Ripert for serving Dick Cheney, Henry Kissinger, and Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino of Jersey Shore infamy at his famed New York dining destination, Le Bernadin. Bourdain characterized Ripert’s clientele as figures that perpetuated war crimes, torture, and chlamydia. According, Bourdain asked Ripert if there was anyone he would not serve. A long silence ensued.
“John McEnroe,” Ripert finally blurted out, much to the audience’s entertainment.
When the tables were turned on Bourdain, Ripert peppered him with questions on everything from Bourdain’s notorious drug use to his involvement as a judge on Top Chef to eating iguana. For the record, the iguana was not appetizing. “If you ever left your childhood G.I. Joe at the bottom of a fish tank and decided to gnaw on it,” was how Bourdain characterized his culinary encounter with the reptile.
Ripert cross-examined the No Reservations star on his strong aversion to vegetarians. “If you have vegan friends I would encourage you to cook bacon around them,” Bourdain said, citing Bacon as a “gateway protein.” Bourdain also described his fierce devotion to the “Grandma Rule,” meaning you eat what you are offered when a guest in someone’s home. Much to the crowd’s delight, Ripert interrogated Bourdain on his public criticism of Paula Deen. “As an admirer of Southern cooking, I am offended,” Bourdain said. “It’s freak food … deep-fried butter. Is this a traditional food of anywhere?”
When Ripert was through with his questioning, the chefs engaged in a political conversation over Upland beer. The discussion focused on culinary ethical issues, such as the organic movement, sustainable farming, and America’s obesity epidemic.
Finally, the chefs fielded questions from the audience. One audience member asked Bourdain about the differences in creative approach and personal enjoyment between No Reservations and The Layover. Bourdain characterized No Reservations as a personal essay. He acknowledged that the show was all about him, and he could basically do whatever he desired on a creative level. His feelings for The Layover were less positive. “At the end of the day, it’s me shoving a lot of food and liquor in my face that would usually take eight days, in 48 hours,” Bourdain explained. He said the show format felt like a marathon and took a lot out of him.
Much to the audience’s surprise, Bourdain cited the Disney flick Ratatouille as the “best food movie, without question.” He described a scene in which a food critic has a flashback to his childhood upon tasting a dish. For Bourdain, this moment “encapsulated the real power of food.”